I’m Sort of a Robot

All of my actions are currently being monitored. Not like Big Brother or a Lindsay-Lohan-court-mandated-ankle-bracelet type of way, but in methods of my own choosing.

On my wrist, my Fitbit keeps track of how many steps I take per day as well as how many minutes I am ‘active.’ It tells me if I slept soundly or tossed and turned all night, and during which hours. My Lumo Lift, clipped to my bra, watches my posture; it vibrates an alert to remind me to straighten up if I slouch for more than 2 minutes. When I eat something or work out, I enter it into MyFitnessPal to calculate calories in and calories out.

I am flooded with data about myself. I am swan-diving into stats like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his piles of money. My daily movements are compiled, tabulated, and translated into brightly colored pie graphs I view on my iPhone. I can challenge other friends with step monitors to contests where I attempt to out-step them in a predetermined period of time. My Lumo Lift can tell when I’m walking with a strong sense of purpose and confident demeanor, or when I’m curled up on the couch crying over Pit Bulls & Parolees. My phone knows exactly how many times I’ve eaten pizza this week.

I do all of this to “keep myself accountable,” to “get back on track.” I’ve attempted similar plans before. A few years back, I deleted a calorie counter app from my phone when it didn’t know what Jägermeister was. But now, I am older, wiser, healthier. And I can prove it to you on my phone.

Tracking all of this data may sound tiring, and let me tell you–it sure is. I’m constantly on my phone, checking how many steps I squeezed out of that walk with the dog, or seeing if a yoga class will earn me back a fun-size KitKat. Also, I. Have. So. Many. Chargers.  But before this dissuades you from buying a rubber wristband of your own, I have to tell you that it’s also kinda fun, and really interesting. I do find myself more motivated to move around; just last night, I volunteered to buy tacos for dinner because I’d get 4 more blocks of steps in. I find myself standing up straighter, which undoubtedly makes my grandma happy. Sometimes, I even rethink that tupperware of chili mac in the fridge and throw together a spinach salad for dinner instead.

I don’t have a weight goal or anything like that; instead, I’m going for balance. Work hard, play hard. Now I must be off; the weekend’s just a few days away so I’m going to go figure out how much elliptical machine equals a bottle of red wine.

 

What’s Your Winter Sport?

I keep returning to the topic of winter, as you can tell by my last post on this blog as well as over at Drinkers with Writing Problems. We’re at the point where we’re past the frenzy of the holiday season but still have a long stretch of cold and gray ahead of us before spring, a.k.a. the super boring tedious part where, in The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder had to twist hay for fuel and subsist on potatoes. For us modern-day pioneers, it means scraping our windshields for the billionth time or writing furious EveryBlock posts about the neighbor that keeps calling dibs.

This is also the part of winter where people start to go on vacations, either to tropical locations for a break in the monotony, or to ski destinations to take part in winter sports. My husband grew up in a skiing family, but I’ve only downhill skied a handful of times. When I was a kid, it was perfectly acceptable to spend the whole ski outing on the bunny hills and using the rope tow. Sadly, as an adult I get mercilessly teased for doing the same.

The last time I went on a ski trip with friends was about 12 years ago. I was the only one who rented skis; everyone else brought their own. They had grown up in skiing families and were skilled and experienced enough to tackle the black diamond slopes. Alone on the wimpy hill, I slowly practiced my snow plow stops and mini-slaloms, working my way up from the beginner slope to a more intermediate run. Eventually I braved the ski lift, which is one of my biggest fears; I’m terrified of heights and the seats look so open and precarious, leaving you vulnerable to any number of Final Destination-esque grisly death scenarios.

On a trip up the hill, shortly after I scooted my snow pants-covered bottom onto the ski lift seat and let it swoop me up about 10 feet into the air, one of my cheap rental skis fell off my boot. I yelped in horror. The ski lift groaned to a standstill.

“What do I do now?” I asked my friend seated next to me in panic. He looked behind us and told me that the lift operator had fetched my lost ski and handed it to the people on one of the chairs behind us, so they could bring it to me at the top of the hill like helpful, goggle-wearing golden retrievers. As our chairs slowly lurched forward again, I started to think about what would happen when we reached the top. I would now have to disembark from my chair and slide my way down the little landing mound on one ski, a la John Cusack in Better Off Dead. My heart was pounding as we climbed closer to the top of the hill; for the first and only time ever, I didn’t want the ride to end. We eventually reached the end of the lift. I gritted my teeth and hoped for the best. When my one ski touched down on snow, I balanced on it as best as I could and rode it out, waving my arms and poles for balance like a deranged pelican, wobbling the whole way down. But I made it! I Lane-Meyered it just far enough to ensure that the next group to come off the lift wouldn’t crash into me, and then stood aside to wait for my other ski. After that, I decided that I shouldn’t push my athletic prowess or dumb luck any further and it was time to retire to the lodge for some adult beverages.

So yeah, skiing is not my winter sport. I’ve since had a major surgery on my knee, so I doubt I’ll be taking it up anytime soon. What else is there? My favorite Olympic winter sport is speed skating, which I’ve only done myself on roller skates. Luging looks like an insane thing to only be attempted in a futuristic death match reality show. Curling looks dumb yet oddly captivating. Maybe any of the things that I only do in the winter could count as ‘my winter sport.’ So that leaves me with drinking whiskey and moisturizing the shit outta my face.

Little House on the Tundra

It’s currently 11 degrees in Chicago (feels like -7, according to weather.com). In the last three days, I have only gone outside to shovel the front sidewalk and play with the dog in the backyard for a few minutes before my hands turn into icicles inside my Thinsulate mittens. Most of my Facebook feed is either threatening to move to Florida or posting Hoth/tauntaun/North of the Wall memes. Some who live in warmer climates are sharing screenshots of their weather apps with sunshine icons and temps in the 70’s; these types are kindred spirits to the people who purposely eat ice cream cones on the sidewalk in full view of Weight Watchers meetings. Schools, businesses, and airlines are shut down, hunkered down, and grounded. People might as well change their out of office emails to “currently on Netflix lockdown.”

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I have a strange love of extreme storms and weather conditions, mostly due to a childhood obsessions with the Little House on the Prairie books. When Mother Nature gives us the business, I like to think I can tough my way through it. During these bleak winter days when polar vortexes descend on my city, I look at them as training. Not for some Snowpiercer-esque future apocalypse, as you may be thinking, but for my retirement days.

Kurt and I like to kick around the ridiculous idea of someday retiring in Alaska. We spent 10 days in an RV driving around Denali, Anchorage, and the Kenai peninsula in the summer of 2012 and both of us fell in love with the breathtaking scenery and the way of life. Since then, we’ve become hooked on a TV show on Destination America called Buying Alaska, which follows couples as they house-hunt in the Last Frontier. We like to talk about what trade-offs we’d be willing to make (could I live with an outhouse as our main bathroom if we could routinely see orcas breaching in the bay from our living room window?). I like to picture a cozy log cabin with big picture windows overlooking pristine nature. I’d have a comfy chair next to the wood burning stove where I’d read books all day and watch for moose or caribou passing through the yard. Kurt would do all of the shoveling. We’d grow vegetables in a greenhouse and store Alaskan beer in our root cellar. The only tough part would be getting through those long, brutal winters.

The tough weather we’ve been having recently give me a small taste of what an Alaskan winter would be like. Could I really deal with -30 degree temperatures, 80″ of snowfall, and 20 hours of darkness? I’ll let you know in a bit.

If not, I could also do Vegas.

Namaste, bitches

When I first came up with the name for this blog, I envisioned it as a place where I’d write about health and fitness for the drunk and lazy. The focus of the blog eventually evolved into something different, but fitness (and occasional drunkenness) remain a regular part of my lifestyle.

During the recent onslaught of back-to-back-to-back holiday parties, I did a terrible job of focusing on health and fitness and fully gave in to be drunk, lazy, and gluttonous. It was such an indulgent binge of ridiculousness that I’m actually looking forward to getting back to some healthy habits now that New Years is over. And you guys, guess what?? Sometime in the past year I got really into yoga.

I used to hate on yoga because I thought it wasn’t enough of a workout. I used to play roller derby and do Crossfit, so in my mind, if I wasn’t burning out my legs by alternating wind sprints with wall sits, or flipping giant tractor tires while grunting and howling like a zoo animal, I wasn’t really getting in shape. Yoga was for girls who spend $100 on stretchy pants and wore them to Starbucks as often as they did to the studio. I am fully willing to admit I was wrong (well, those people do exist, but if they have the strength to pull off a perfect side crow pose, they’ve earned the right to trot out those LuluLemons anywhere they please).

Last March, I found a yoga class that I enjoyed, challenged me, and even left me feeling sore the next day. This blew my Crossfit-brainwashed mind, so I got a monthly membership and kept it up through the fall until we moved away from the studio. Nowadays, I do a yoga/Pilates workout DVD at home that allows me to be lazy in that I don’t need to leave the house to get in a good workout. Also, exercise DVDs are semi-hilarious because you eventually memorize all of the small talk the instructor spouts. I like to imagine backstories for the people in the video; for example, I think that Chalene and Janelle are total Mean Girls to Michelle, who is stuck in the role of showing the modified version of each move. You can tell this because on one of the DVDs, Chalene tells Michelle during an ab exercise that she’s “blessed with a long torso” and Michelle makes a face at the camera, like “I just got Lacey Chaberted.”

I’ve also come to enjoy the meditative quality of yoga, which is especially surprising considering I’m the type of person who can’t look at Facebook for more than 5 minutes without ADD kicking in and making me switch to Instagram or Twitter. My husband once watched me play with my phone over my shoulder and he said it made him dizzy. During a 75-minute yoga class, I can shut off that part of my brain and find an inner calm.

Looking ahead into a bright shiny new year, I definitely plan to continue to make yoga a part of my day as often as possible. Though I still may flip some giant tires; a girl’s gotta live a little.

October in a nutshell

This has been a busy month.

I made two pumpkin pies and finished one of them by myself in two days. Though in my defense, I had bought the shallow pie crusts so it was more like a tart. Whatever; I’d do it again.

Also, I visited a haunted house with my Scully and our friend. As we were driving out to its suburban location, I remembered that haunted houses can legit freak me out, plus I have terrible night vision. Death, obviously, was imminent. It didn’t help that this particular haunted house had people in costume lurking in the line area, creeping up behind you to surprise you. We finally made our way to the front of the line and were placed in a group of about 7, all of us full-grown adults, just hanging out on a Saturday night ready and willing to be chased by fake killer clowns. At first, we were near the back of our group, so we didn’t bear the brunt of most of the big jump-out-and-freak-you-out surprises. However, as we made our way through the twisting tunnels and pitch-black passageways, we began to lose people from our group one at time like an actual horror movie. I was staying strong, being brave, resolute to make it through to the end (What Would Jennifer Love Hewitt Do?). At one point we reached a fork in the tunnel quickly followed by a dead end, and the female half of the couple in front of us said turned around and said with disdain “It’s a fucking maze.” Our little group of three splintered off from them and got through quickly, but then we were alone and an easy target for all of the ghosts/monsters/theater majors.  We reached a room that was completely dark except for an intermittent, blinding white strobe light. During the dark intervals, a person in all-white spandex suit snuck up right into our faces, scaring the hell out of us when the lights flashed back on. I wondered what a full 8-hour shift must be like for that guy, working all by himself in a constant strobe light-filled room peppered with terrified screams. It must be an interesting talking point on his résumé. After we reached the exit, I took a selfie with a ghoul. Overall, it was fun; I’d do it again.

#YOLO

#YOLO

And then most recently, I got tattooed. To match the cat paw print on my right forearm, I added a dog print on my left side. It’s my ninth tattoo and therefore my ninth step down the road to being less employable by mainstream businesses without further investments in an extensive cardigan collection. Luckily, I enjoy my current job at a company that is open-minded when it comes to personal expression, so no trips to the Gap sale section are needed. (Quick digression but when I worked at the Gap just out of college, one of our favorite jokes in the stockroom was to respond to a messily folded pile of sweaters with the sarcastic remark “What do you think this is, Gap Outlet?” Which just shows that every society has its own politics). Back to the tattoo–I’m really happy with it, a tribute to our rescue dog that lines up nicely with her feline sister’s paw print on my other arm. Should we ever have children, I’m going to have to get their names or something tattooed somewhere so they don’t grow up with a complex. So, yep, I’d do it again.

October, you’ve been pretty dope.

Fall in

IMG_3755Where did the last month go? Between moving into a new house and a super busy period at work, I blinked and it was suddenly October. September came and went without a blog post, and we have barely begun our to-do list of projects around the house. I’m a person who loves to revel in the moment; apparently, reading Our Town in grade school really got through to me.

Autumn is my absolute fave season, which I realize sounds like shit girls say. I love the cooler weather, the transition into sweaters and boots, the excuse to stay home and cuddle on the couch watching graphically violent horror movies I’m not usually interested in during the rest of the year. I love Halloween and decorative gourds, cider and pumpkin pie, the changing of the leaves and daydrinking while watching football.

Autumn is such a fleeting season, often squeezed out by Indian summers and/or early snowfalls, so I want to enjoy every minute of it this year. I want to go to a haunted house and spend $20 to be chased by a community theater actor with a chainsaw. I want to eat pumpkin flavored products until I look like the Great Pumpkin from Charlie Brown. I want to drink hot apple cider while wrapped up in a Pendleton blanket while Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” plays softly in the background. I want to watch Sleepy Hollow, a moderately entertaining television show that I’m amazed exists considering its ridiculous premise of Ichabod Crane solving supernatural mysteries in the present day. Or Hocus Pocus, a Bette Midler vehicle that benefits heavily from my generation’s nostalgia for movies from our childhood that are actually not that great.

This year has been flying by at an astonishing speed, with more Major Life Events in one 12-month period than I’ve ever experienced before. I want to grab onto Time like the reins on a runaway horse, dig my heels into the ground, and make everything slow down. I want to wrap it in my Pendleton blanket, cuddle it, and just make it relax for a second. I don’t want to miss anything.

Adventures in Moving

This weekend, my dude and I finally said goodbye to our 2-bedroom that we’ve called home together for the last 6 years. We were ready for more space, a yard for our dog to play in, and a new neighborhood.

I always thought that moving was the worst, but it’s not. Moving during a torrential downpour is the worst.

The day had started out hot and sunny, and our movers showed up early, giving our big day a huge jumpstart. We thought we’d be in great shape, get everything done before the evening when we could kick back in our new living room and enjoy a glass of wine with our feet up.

The day’s complications started soon after the move began when I had to take one of our two cats, Ginger Spice, to the vet for an impromptu appointment; she was peeing wherever she pleased, like me in college. Then, after every single item we owned had been stacked inside a truck, the sky started turning an ominous dark gray. We drove to the new house watching the clouds nervously. As we parked on our new street and raced up the front path, rain became to pour. At the front door, Kurt couldn’t get the keys to work, so we sprinted like mad around to the back through the side gate. I didn’t get carried over the threshold of our first house; instead, I got soaking wet while holding a bag of hot dogs and standing behind my husband as he swore at a doorknob.

After finally getting inside through the kitchen, we went out to meet the movers at the garage. By this point, the sky had opened up into a full-blown thunderstorm. Rain flooded up over the curbs and turned streets into rivers. I had just enough time to scarf down a hot dog and then I had to head back out into the storm to pick up the cat from the vet before they closed.

I navigated the car through the pounding rain, windshield wipers swishing at the highest possible speed. I don’t know what it is, because sometimes the simplest chore like carrying groceries up three flights of stairs makes me just want to give up on life, but something about an extreme situation stirs something inside that urges me to rise to the challenge. Maybe it was my childhood spent devouring Laura Ingalls Wilder books about brutal winters and fording rushing rivers in an ox-wagon, but when Mother Nature rears up, I feel inspired to lean forward and shoulder my way through. So I gritted my teeth, braced myself, and steered that Subaru Forester through driving rain so I could pick up my cat and pay a big fat vet bill, just like the pioneers did.

After I had picked up Ginger and secured the drugged-up cat in the backseat, I swung back by the old apartment to pick up the second cat, Esteban, still quivering in fear behind the washing machine from the commotion of the movers. I pried him out but quickly realized that the movers had taken the second cat carrier to the new house, so I turned the Ginger loose in the car and used her carrier to haul Esteban out of the house. The rain had finally slowed to a light drizzle. Esteban yowled and hissed in protest from inside the carrier. Ginger, high as a kite from the vet appointment, wandered freely around the car, peering out windows and attempting to climb me. With a flame-point Siamese sitting in my lap while driving, I was now less brave pioneer and more Gabor sister.

Finally, we reached the new house. The sky had brightened and the movers were just finishing up unloading the truck. Kurt helped me carry the cats inside. When the movers pulled away in their empty trunk, we settled on the couch, our sole piece of furniture available to sit on, surrounded by piles of soggy cardboard boxes. Finally, we were home. And our house is a very very fine house indeed. Just watch out for those two cats in the yard, because one of them is high on drugs.

 

Never Standing Still

If you’ve visited this blog before, you may have noticed that the tag line has changed. The old one (which I loved) was “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard because I use those old-timey frosty mugs.” (Back in the height of my karaoke-ing days, “Milkshake” was my go-to closer for the night.) However, as I recently began blogging on this site again, I want to have a clearer focus of what I plan to write about here. This has been an incredibly eventful year for me personally (new job, got married, traveled, became a homeowner) and I’d like to start documenting these experiences for friends and family to read about. Also, I have a tendency to take on multiple pursuits at a time (roller derby, Crossfit, yoga, maybe even a big project that I may or may not be procrastinating on). In summary, I’m pretty bad at staying still. You know, #YOLO and such.

Ironically, my hair is currently too short to put up in a ponytail.

Hello again…

It has been a long time since I’ve written on this blog. For the last 10 months or so, I’ve been a regular contributor to the literary blog Drinkers With Writing Problems. While I am still an active member of the group, lately I’ve been itching to return to Ponytail Up; however, I wasn’t totally sure what focus I wanted this blog to take. I have decided that I will continue to post fictional and conceptual work at DWWP, while I will use my this blog to write more personal stuff–streams of consciousness, opinions, and stories from my own life. There will be lots of words and not a lot of pictures. I don’t guarantee beginnings/middles/endings. We’ll see how this goes.

Right now, I am sitting in an airport waiting for my flight which is delayed by nearly 2 hours. I have been on an extremely short business trip in Atlanta that is only meant to be 24 hours long. Last night, I exited the plane and saw on the first TV screen that I passed that Robin Williams was dead of apparent suicide. Like so many other people on the facebooks and twitters have commented, this celebrity death has hit me harder than most deaths of famous strangers. When I was a kid, during the summer my siblings and I would spend the hottest part of the summer sleeping in the basement in the cool subterranean darkness. Sprawled out on couch cushions and sheets, we would watch Nick at Nite with the ceiling lights turned off, bathing in the black & white flicker of The Patty Duke Show or The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Our absolute favorite was Mork & Mindy; I can remember laughing and trying to force ourselves to stay awake well beyond our usual bedtime to see Mork’s manic streams of jokes. As we grew older, we accumulated even more favorites among Williams’s work: Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji. In college, Good Will Hunting was my #1 jam. I am thankful to him for all of the beautiful memories he has given me, and am saddened that his life ended in such deep unhappiness.

There are countless think pieces on suicide, depression, and loneliness currently circulating on social media, and I am glad that at least one positive thing to come out of this tragedy is that people are remembering to tell others that they love them and that they are there for those that may need help.

I am incredibly thankful that I so rarely feel alone and that I have such amazing love in my life. I know that I am lucky and I cherish the people I care about. At my old job, I would travel more often for work and for longer periods of time, and I can remember the loneliness I felt at being physically separated from my family. I’m sure that most people who travel for business feel the same when they are away from their loved ones, unless you’re a hardcore loner or George Clooney in the first half of Up in the Air. When I am in a different place than my husband, I feel highly aware of just how big a chunk of Earth separates us. I worry that if some sort of worldwide disaster were to hit, we wouldn’t be together (I’ve always been more prone to anxiety). Each additional minute of delayed flight pushes our reunion further away, and I want to shake my fist at the aviation gods for holding my plane hostage at whatever small commuter airport it’s currently stuck at. For now, I must sit here with my headphones and laptop, The National streaming into my ears in place of my husband’s laugh. And when I finally get home sometime tonight, I will hug him and tell him that I love him.

Not Here to Make Friends

Reasons why I may not like you:

  • You cross the street against the green left turn signal.
  • At Asian restaurants, you will only order the pad thai, every single time.
  • You’re a child who earnestly belts out showtunes. Every time I see a young child actor sincerely warble “bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun…..” I want to glimpse the future where 20 years of working in a cubicle has totally broken their spirit.